Monday, 30 April 2012

Track Review: Japandroids - The House That Heaven Built



Excitement is brewing because Japandroids are set to release their second studio album Celebration Rock in June. It's been five years since they began recording material for the critically acclaimed 2009 noise rock piece Post-Nothing, but they've kept every inch of originality and rawness which beacons down on the listener with such power. This momentous track is called The House That Heaven Built, and I'm not surprised. This track is thunderous, ecliptic and incredibly epic giving me visions of a dark rock montage somewhere in Brooklyn. Japandroids are of course Canadian, and focus on a mix between garage punk and noise punk.


It's like all great punk rock tracks. It has energy and a sense of urgency that the track 5's and 6's and 7's just don't have (if you catch my drift). This is single material and what a single this is. The drumming picks up momentum as the track progresses with the heavily distorted vocal jeers. The chords are heavy and have a standard sound, separating the verse from the chorus very nicely. The vocal refrains are magnificent, with vocalist/guitar Brian King screaming out the final clear shriek, "It’s a lifeless life, with no fixed address to give, but you’re not mine to die for anymore so I must live." The drums increase vigorously, as does the guitars which have a second coming sound this time round, with the drumming still building as the lyrics "And if they try to slow you down, tell em all to go to hell", booming through as clear as distortion allows it to be. 
~Eddie

Best Coast - The Only Place


When Best Coast released their debut album Crazy For You in 2010, hype was generated. So much god damn hype led to a series of tours and EP releases with fellow California lo-fi dude Wavves. I know what you're thinking, links. We have several links to external sites for your interests because the angry mob called for 'inner linking'. I don't want to stray too far off topic, unfortunately this album isn’t very good so I can't actually concentrate. I'm trying to be open and give constructive criticism to the duo, Bobb & Beth.. This is harder than I thought. Look at that bear for instance! Man handling California like it's his bitch. The album cover pretty much sums up The Only Place... Dull, unoriginal, bland, boring, bullshit, 'bare'.. Not minimalistic and not 'post-modern' or some garage-surf-lo-fi-punk-core type thing. That’s enough of that for an opening paragraph, on to the music.

I take it back actually; let's talk about the new Beach Boys album. You know a band with actual song writing talent and technical skill. That's what I call surf-pop, delivering the "true" sound of the (not quite so) best coast. Repetition has always been a problem in this genre. Many artists fail to live up to their expectation because of their follow up album, and Best Coast are no different. There are not many differences between this album and Crazy For You. I could maybe mention the production style and the lyrical differences insipid sound. For starters the opening track and, unsurprisingly, lead single The Only Place has one of the worst lyrical themes of 2012. I am correct, it is 2012 and Bethany is still writing tracks about her precious beaches and sunshine. You could describe this track as an ode to California; I personally see it as a cheap and tacky move. For instance, "We have fun, we have fun, we have fun." I'm sorry dear, but you can't trick me into having fun listening to this bullshit. The guitar riff is extremely flat and her vocal drones have little to no effect on what was supposed to be the 'Best Coast sound'. Production is far crisper, which leaves a massive gap, since the original rawness of the debut album has been replaced by a simple 'rock' sound. This sound continues on Why I Cry with one of the worst song structures possible. It honestly is a huge step down, with Beth wailing her vocals and the predictable, utterly predictable guitar which becomes a nuisance pretty fast.

Last Year salvages some credibility with a respectable guitar riff. Its heaviness carries the track because Bethany has gone full retard with her lyrics and vocal effort here. She hasn't improved her vocal style, and what style she had (with the reverberated layers and shit), has been taken away in Jon Brion's production. You're asking why he's stripped away the raw sound, I can't tell you because it will be a mystery for many decades. He has basically taken the Best Coast out of Best Coast by pulling out the studio effects. It may be intended to sound more 'realistic', but with cat loving Bethany Cosentino on vocals, all hope of sophistication is taken away in one swift vocal wail. The shortest track 'My Life' is also the one to avoid. There's not a lot in this track, it's just a standard Best Coast album track with a repetitive guitar riff and a wailing Bethany vocal. I wasn’t expecting this track to be GOAT, but I wanted it to at least keep me entertained. Sure, I can listen to it, but the progression and her vocal is unbearable. It will be a recurring critical analysis for this album. And it's an analysis that shouldn’t surface as much as it does… Boring.

Best Coast needs to experiment more. These time signatures and song structures are all very basic and feature diddly-squat originality. No One Like You is their attempt at sounding 'retro' and soulful, however it comes across completely differently in my ears. This track actually has a creative acoustic guitar riff on the right side of the track; it's just almost entirely obscured by the Bethany Cosentino wails. The drumming is standard, as is the bass, and the electric guitar, and the lyrics. The song is a write off because it requires no talent what so ever (sorry for that guys). How They Want Me To Be carries on where No One Like You left off, slow and boring. I can't help but describe this album as boring because it's just filled with these mind numbingly boring tracks about Bethany's dreams and her relationship troubles (yet again). How They Want Me To Be does actually have a hint of sadness and melancholy, but only momentarily… Before the wails kick in and the simplistic guitar riff continues.

The barre chords are everywhere and I can't get them out of my head. Better Girl (sorry for the link, it's not at all relevant, but it does have a better girl, and Best Coast). Anyway, Better Girl has a very basic guitar riff again. I'm boring myself describing the basic barre guitar riffs because it's just getting silly now. How they can market this baloney is beyond me. Her voice sounds respectable during the chorus, but again with the wails… Please stop. There is no fuzz, no imagery and no 'summer feel'. Best Coast has lost all their charm by releasing this album, and the later tracks show. 'Do You Still Love Me Like You Used To' has an urge to descend into noise, but never really challenges the production skills of Jon Brion. 'Dreaming My Life Away' is painful to listen to. It's moments like this when an album should just stop, because it has no artistic value or any actual presentable features. It's incredible how stark this track sounds. Beth's vocals are horrible and the twinkling keyboards are minimal and are again obscured by the annoyingly simple bass riff and simplistic dynamics.

Best Coast leaves the best tracks till last on The Only Place. The final two are honestly the best on the album by a country mile. The enigmatic 'Let's Go Home' has the best lyrics on the album and Bethany actually sings these well in a well-spoken concise manner. The guitar sounds great and so does the shimmering reverberated effects on the right side. Still, it's no I Want You. The closing track is typically filled with four barre chords which I'm certain, they've used before. There is a melancholy sparkle on Up All Night, it's a different kind of Best Coast track because it allows Bethany to clearly express in a singer-songwriter style rather than the typical repetitive structures. The structure here is repetitive, but it's better than many tracks on this album. It's a sweet closing track; unfortunately it doesn’t hit the right mark.

In summary, it’s not as if Best Coast has improved since 2010. Rather, they've slumped in every way imaginable. The production on this album is a complete shambles and the dedicated fan base will be hunting down the 'direction' change for this albums sound. It's just not resonating with me and I'm sure many other listeners will say the same. I had an open mind coming into this album, mainly due to my moderately positive review of their debut album Crazy For You. I'm generally gutted that Best Coast has released a flawed album this time round. It's always difficult to record a follow up album, and Best Coast seem to have fell beneath the cracks of pressure and record label time constraints on this one. I can't really offer any advice to the duo either. If I was a close friend, I would tell them to experiment more and scrap the basic four barre chords and simplistic drumming for some serious instrumentation and musical skill.
~Eddie

3.4

Keane - Strangeland


Tune into any modern-day British or American tough-on-the-heart soap or medical drama, and I can guarantee that Keane will be found amidst the soundtrack of pop, rock and piano ballads. Over the years, the Sussex trio - touring bassist Jesse Quin though now a permanent member of the band, couldn't really be counted here, no offense Quin - have found themselves seemingly the first artists network producers have reached for so as to fill these tense empathetic scenes near the end of a 60-minute stream of scripted acting. Indeed, piano-rock has become a staple in soundtracking the hope, the fear, the tensity and the realization that too has made itself a necessary component in contemporary drama. And while the band have pushed into more testing experimental grounds - be it, the electronic unsettling of 'Under The Iron Sea', or the 80s-influenced synth-pop passing of 'Perfect Symmetry' - you'd think these guys had been chained to a Yamaha or Roland whenever it was time to put pen to paper on their music. 'Strangeland', four years in the making - or two if you want to consider 'Night Train' a worthy contributor of artistic development and output - is no exception. And while the honesty, and a result, vulnerability that was showcased quite respectively on their debut, is just-as-apparent here, it's hard to figure out whether these guys are looking back, just for inspiration.

The first track 'You Are Young' won't necessarily reel you into the album, but the distant guitar strings and sandy percussion do provide some interesting sounds here. Tom Chaplin's vocals, and indeed his voice, retains the previous semantics of hopeful reflection and conclusion we've come to expect from him, and so too does lead instrumentalist Tim Rice-Coxley lay the piano atop all this, refusing to waver from the band's signature cautiously-treading key changes. 'Silenced By The Night' likewise keeps to the same mindset of piano above all else, even if Chaplin attempts to bellow his lyrics out as if the unchanging concept is anything worthwhile to the listener. The treading of keys makes for a note-worthy shimmer of fantastical textures, but aside from this, what is considered the lead single feels almost too fantastical and out-of-focus.

Piano music will always be one of those things where when it works, it's like some emotional delicacy which makes you wonder how anybody could not have got it right before. But when it doesn't, the risk that it comes across as part-hollow, part-filler, only increases. Fortunately, 'Sovereign Light Cafe' comes as both something refreshing - optimistic and promising in its initial build-up - but also, quite enjoyable in a non-analytical respect. Rice-Oxley doesn't attempt to be overly-dominant with his strikes of piano keys, Chaplin doesn't target his audience so as to make them weep or moan at the lyrical vibes of his song-writing (his voice really making its mark both in and out of harmonic unison) and the drumbeats and other light-hearted percussion work is quite charming. It's one of those songs where the vocals accompany the instrumentation - and vice-versa - rather well and it gives the verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure some credibility in the wider aspect.

Follower 'On The Road' too breaks away from the mold with its sudden stomping-and-clapping percussion, guitar work providing a bubbling marsh of underlay below this sudden flush of rhythm and pace. It gives me a 'Keep The Car Running' vibe [Arcade Fire song] on first impressions, and it's hard to shrug that away. Beyond this, however, not only does the connectivity of other bands cease, but so too on multiple repeated listens, is the band's efforts to expand and experiment with their affixed pop structures. And even if 'Black Rain' comes off as some brooding extra-terrestrial voyage of synth-pop and light-hearted cosmic experimentalism, it's Chaplin's vocals again that bring the track crashing back down to Earth quite whimperingly with lyrics that don't really push or envelope us beyond a typical 'this happened, that happened, this happened...' scenario. But the most interesting of their experimentation's into instrument choice in the shape of 'Neon River' is a welcoming listen in its manifestation, albeit for the first minute or so, of in-and-out percussion and quirky analog electronics. Beyond this, the track merely degrades into generic piano leads and mix-filling drum hits that don't share the prior part's intrigue and character.

It's like most Keane songs - I say most, because there are some which I can exclude from this list that actually are great listens (The Iron Sea or Untitled 1, being noteworthy mentions) - come off in the same accidental product where Chaplin and Rice-Oxley are merely competing against one another for who can deliver the richest and heart-warming sounds into our ears. And it feels almost a bit too rich and close to emotional, that it lacks all solidarity and purpose. But when the piano isn't been used as a battering ram rather than a piano, it does help lift the song from off the drawing boards. 'In Your Own Time' shows encouraging signs of what both Tom and Tim can achieve if both their organic and electronic ideas fit neatly together. It's just a shame that this track is left near the end, the penultimate in this case, for us to see the band are for delivering rather than just executing and hoping for the best.

And while they can give us some interesting, and yes, enjoyable variations on a pop-rock formula that's becoming more and more diluted and devolved every passing week, the fact remains that Keane are just too centralized in their aims and objectives as musicians now, you can't help but feel a sense of mediocrity in the majority of these melodies. Fine if you're all for the predictable and the overdone, but there's only so many times you can disguise a mopey love-song or ill-feeling ballad as something worth-while. Well, I'm sure the ITV's and the NBC's of the World will be satisfied, but for me, 'Strangeland' could have had its track-listing the other way around and I'd have still come away from this album with the exact same conclusion of attitudes and feelings: meh.
~Jordan

5.3

Plaid - Scintilli


British duo, Andy Turner and Ed Handley, remain one of the more auspicious and gratifying acts to come out of Warp's electronic revolution of 90's sound. Their earlier releases 'Not For Threes' and 'Double Figure' hold the same whimsical flutter of anxious venturing today as they had on first release. Even in an age that sees the concept of electronic as, to most people, mere mix-deck filler or a means to wind the volume down when you get to your atypical radio-pop chorus drops, Plaid as an outfit remain unshaken - unwilling to drop their establishment of haunting synths and playful keyboards for something a little more...dare I say it...commercial. I use the words 'earlier releases' not as to amplify that, yes, it has been eight years since their last studio album - most of this space filled by the creation of animated movie soundtracks and art installations alike - but as stated, the duo return in the same fashion a Victorian gentlemen returns to an estate now loitered with BMX-riding hood-covered teenagers.

'Scintilli', 2011's official Plaid contribution, may in some parallel universe have come across as indeed two or three generations out of touch with the real World. But here, in our World - in our Universe - it's as much captivating in its energy as it is unsettling in its honesty. It isn't long until we get to 'Thank' that the memory of Plaid's success as both artists and conjurers truly comes into play. The first thing that springs up, the jumping and hopping of high-atune synths merely acts like a toy to the real abruptness of the song's intense break and sliding of beats back and forth. It's a signature written all over the duo's work, but here the erratic nature of its sound creates a more uneasy vibe, but it's only an uneasiness of the output rather than one of an emotive or even direct response. 'Unbank' however, is the complete opposite, the more rougher texture of electronics gritting against the softening haunting of voices and murmurs that are simply impossible to recognize as either hopeful or helpless. It feels almost patterned and planned out when taking into consideration the way the track drops and withdraws from itself in places, only to return into a stomping of drums and synths alike. But this is what makes it work so incredibly well, alongside the tension and slight anxiety that builds in the sound's overall conjuring.

The next track 'Tender Hooks' as a result, depending on your standing, can either be seen as sympathetic or intimidating towards this build of emotion and interaction with the listener's line of thinking. The beat itself isn't all that complex, but the echo and distant displacement of the accompanying more-melodic sounds give it that more-sentient depth to it. Indeed, the album is a cluster of attacking and counter-attacking mind-sets in such a way that it hardly feels like it's heading in one straight path or direction. Rather, it's all over the place...well-mannered then engaging, then straight back to delicacy only to crumple it all up for something more 'out there'. 'Sömnl' shares the same kind of indecisiveness and abstract line of thought as is seen on later Autechre records - another worthy Warp name, I think you'll agree - but here it feels more sinister and conserved, as if not entirely telling the whole story.

It's a strange thing to describe, because the way Plaid have set out to construct these track and these crumpled-up-balls of bouncing sounds, only creates a sense of uneasy enjoyment about their music. And while that's not exactly a bad thing, it does, by default, make you wonder just what manner of character or reason (if such a thing can be spoke about in electronic music) these sounds have rummaging inside themselves. 'Talk To Us' certainly demonstrates this manic speed and while it still holds the same degree of progression as earlier Plaid records, the underlay of fellow electronics makes this feel like the track is balancing above some darkening void rather than a mix desk. '35 Summers' the follower, does share with us a sort of surreal delicacy in its sprinkling of crystal-like keys and muddy wet synthesizers, but in all it feels less like a stand-out means of identity, and more like a shining crack amidst the absorbing infinite chasm this album manifests itself as.

Scintilli's penultimate manifestation 'Upgrade' is quite possibly the true ambassador to the album's uneasy stretch of territory into our ears. Whether it's the crash and sizzle of percussion or the overall push and drive of the track's primarily-dominant beat, the track feels much more on the edge and unsteady - unplanned, rather - than the previous listens. The addition of harmony, as if attempting to drown the track out later in the composition, again like many tracks before it, can't be made out as to whether it's hindering, or instead, helping this upheaval of out-of-control sounds.

And all this tantalizing and testing of sounds and the effects it produces, come off a 13-track record where four minutes is the average length of repercussion and collision of sounds. Yes, Plaid are no strangers to keeping things under wraps and under control so far as time is concerned, but here it seems, they've decided against stretching these sounds out into an environment of musical collage and montage, so as to discover what the resulting salvo would come across as. Indeed it feels to me at least, the sounds are more compressed and produce this erratic undecipherable nature as a result of this. But most importantly, it pays off, and that's the most crucial thing. 'Scintilli' emphasizes Plaid's fitting to the electronic scene with haunting accuracy, and even after almost twenty years at this, their latest release feels like some twisted bad dream, yet one you can't escape from. Not because it's caught you and there's no way out, rather the opposite...you can see the exit, yet you don't want it to leave. It's intrigue, it's understanding, and that's what keeps us latched onto this culmination of sound.
~Jordan

8.2

The Top 5 Music Related Films


Defining a 'music related' film can be difficult. We have an endless, literally endless list of musicals spanning decades, but I'm not referring to musicals in this list. This list is about film that has a focus on music or is biographically based around the music world. With this comes great decision making on who makes the ultimate five, for that reason.. Several films may be left untouched, or unseen in my case. So this next space is for those films that are still of great musical quality, however unfortunately didn’t make my top five.

Notorious
Curtis
The Blues Brothers
Rockers
The Devil & Daniel Johnston
Glastonbury
Garden State
Almost Famous



5. Bugsy Malone - Alan Parker


This film is the only exception to the 'no musicals' rule. It is in fact part musical, part film, which in turn makes it the best music related film of the 70's. People may remember the film for the young Jodie Foster (post Taxi Driver). Her role was vital to the films acclaim, and he played her part perfectly, acting out the track 'My Name Is Tallulah' with genius innocence and surprise sexual motives which seems and looks weird directed at a room full of 11 year olds (Judie Foster was 13 and singing about subliminal prostitution). This track is one of the highlights because of the soulful verses and highbrow chorus which has an amazing trumpet hook.


Some would say the ultimate scenes revolve around the plot, the child-mob story. The plot is there, as is the surrealism and comedy, but the 'hit' scene enters during the boxing scene with the rather large black child. 'So You Wanna Be A Boxer' has one of the best melody's in OST film history. It's just outstanding to hear, and recording music has taken this riff and used it as a sample, such as Dizzee Rascal. The following track 'Ordinary Fool' is beautiful and has rightfully been covered by Elle Fitzgerald and Karen Carpenter. The tracks are all fantastic on the album, and their designated scenes only spruce up the tracks because of the imagery you actually get from listening to these tracks. 'Bad Guy's has the piano riff and 'Down And Out' has the instrumentation and dark theme. It's all just one great film full of musical brilliance, watch it. Director Alan Parker went on to direct some great films and controversial such as the racial Mississippi Burning. He also directed a film, which we'll be looking at later on this list.



4. Walk The Line - James Mangold


Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon star in the Johnny Cash biographical film. They performed their roles as expects, with Joaquin Phoenix delivering a stellar vocal very similar to Johnny Cash's. The soundtrack is what gives this movie its musical credibility, with 16 tracks of Cash's hits and the duets with June Carter. The movie is set out in chronological order from Cash's early career leading up through his famed years on the road and his eventual marriage breakdown, discovery of Bob Dylan and relationship with June Carter. It leads up to the climatic and famous Folsom Prison scene. The following scenes are Joaquin's best, with the final marriage proposal and SUCSESS!!! YEAH!!! The final scenes show Cash and Carter down at their family home raising their children. The plot is filled with happy moments, but shares it's sad moments too. Country music has never reached a worldwide audience, but with film it eventually took a hold of the British youth.


The emotional scenes are exactly that, emotional. You can never get bored of this film because the music carries it on. The biographical vibe is present with 'factual' or near-factual scenes which give the lightest to the most avid fan of Johnny Cash some justice. Joaquin Phoenix plays his role so well and received many awards for his role, also winning a Grammy. It's the only film that describes Cash's early life with passion and clear detail; you have to owe it to the director for making this happen. An Oscar was won for this film, truly deserved.



3. The Commitments - Alan Parker


The film Barry from Eastenders was designed to feature in, it's an honest shame that he wasn’t cast for the lead role because he would play the lead singers role perfectly. Only difference is, this film was released in 1991 and features an amateur cast of Irish descent. This is of course The Commitments, written by Roddy Doyle in 1987, with adaption to film in 1991. The plot revolves around Jimmy Rabbit's vision of a successful career as a band manager, deciding to play Soul music in the style of the great Wilson Pickett. It's a fictional, coming of age film which ends at square one. The band forms in a traditional working class style, with Jimmy recruiting musicians from the job centre, the local pub and his friends from across the street. They agree to play should, but some disputes later in the film force one of the saxophonists to begin playing Jazz to the trumpet players disgust. There's plenty of running gags, many of which are left untouched, but the most spoken is the trumpet player’s connection in the music scene (he also looks like a rough David Seaman).


This is not only a film to watch if you're a soul fan, it's THE film. Endless references to the great soul singers, with several quotes by manager Jimmy, "Soul is the music people understand. Sure it's basic and it's simple. But it's something else 'cause, 'cause, 'cause it's honest, that's it. It’s honest. There's no fuckin' bullshit. It sticks its neck out and says it straight from the heart. Sure there's a lot of different music you can get off on but soul is more than that. It takes you somewhere else. It grabs you by the balls and lifts you above the shite." Tracks like 'Nowhere To Run' and 'Chain of Fools' get the female singers some air time, with the unprofessional and hated member Deco singing on the majority of tracks. The soul aspects are all setup in bog standard racial fashion, with many referenced to whites singing soul. It's an essential film about a bands formation and (SPOILER) eventual failure. The two disk album has great performances including Glen Hansard of The Swell Season playing a major role in the film.



2. 24 Hour Party People - Michael Winterbottom


The music of Manchester and the surrounding area saw a comical dramatic style of different eras in Tony Wilson's career. It starred Steve Coogan as the witty and highly intelligent record owner, club owner and alternative broadcaster Tony Wilson. He was Manchester's answer to John Peel basically, but with more of a personal drive to make things happen. The film begins in the 70's with Wilson starting up his label with Martin Hannett recording early Joy Division songs. The famous Sex Pistols gig takes place in the film, as does many iconic moments of the 70's - mid 90's. The film is set out in a half and half style, with Tony Curtis playing the 'rise to the top' like figure. The plot is loosely based on fact, as is the speech. It is a unique film which shows the great raw new wave / post-punk era in it the Manchester fashion, with an easily music club with many of Wilsons artists playing regularly.


The first era shows Joy Divisions rise to the top, and Ian Curtis's death and funeral. The birth of New Order corresponded with the second part of the film with 'Madchester' and Happy Mondays being the focus. Sean Ryder is exposed by his actor as being lowbrow and having very laidback attitudes to everything, much like Martin Hannett. The music in this film differs from punk to acid house, with the second half of the film featuring very dance-like tracks performed by Happy Mondays and others in The Haçienda nightclub. The main thing to me that makes this movie great musically is the amount of cameo appearances. Howard Devoto of The Buzzcocks, Mark E. Smith of The Fall, several DJ's and Clint Boon of The Inspiral Carpets all make an appearance. This film has all the essential Madchester artists in their entire glory celebrating one thing, the music.



1. High Fidelity - Stephen Frears



This film of elitism saw John Cusack play the role of Rob Gordon, Chicago record store owner in a troubled relationship. It differs from the book with location and misses out some key scenes, but the film almost follows the book chapter to chapter, with John Cusack reading out many passages in a believable style. The music is outstanding, with consistent mentions to a Music Review Database favourite.. Lists, and name dropping alternative artists in a LAD banter style. High Fidelity was released in book form in 1995 by Nick Hornby. This was the start of the modern youth elitism that still to this day, plagues the scene. Many of the artists featured in this film are commercially unsuccessful but have general musical skill and critical acclaim. It's a common theme and it's one of the main joys of this film. Seeing three musical elitists discuss music avidly on a day-to-day basis as their job, seeing themselves as above the average music listener.


Better yet, people can relate to Rob Gordon in this movie. Many 'special' music fans have the obsessive need to own music and talk about music, but above all find true love. And that's Rob's game plan in this movie. He knows about his elitism, and he knows his taste is special. That's the message I get from this movie. The music side to this film is absolutely outstanding and above anything ever conceived musically on film. The love side corresponds with the music side, with Rob mentioning his entire relationship is based around one song. He also mentions how personalities are built around favourite films, books and albums.. Exactly how I perceive things. This is a music classic, which needs to be watched by all music lovers everywhere. The Captain Beefheart monologues and Frank Zappa bits are unbelievable.

~Music Review Database


Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Actress - R.I.P.


Actress is the alias of London electronic artist Darren Cunningham. His previous album ‘Splazsh’ was credited as one of the stronger experimental albums of 2010. His debut album 'Hazyville' was released in 2008 to an astonishing amount of praise from the electronic, hip-hop and r&b community because if its string influences and mixed beats which separated itself from any record of the time. R.I.P. sounds like a mix between Global Communication and Tangerine Dream, with a little bit of Flying Lotus poked in there.

Discussion is brewing on whether Actress is changing his direction. His debut was filled with hop-hop aesthetics and he never left the listener in the open with the 'techno' beats. Splazsh took his direction towards more standard forms of electronic music, with a huge emphasis on abstract glitch-hop beats. This time around he's become ambient. The low fidelity nature of Splazsh took old Casio keyboards and turned them into deep electronic sounds, you don’t get this on R.I.P. This album has been toned down and stripped apart of the lo-fi instrumentation and been replaced with soundscapes and powerful synthesizers. The self-titled opening track has a very heavy bass line and a whirling soundscape which plays tricks in my mind with the powerful dark and gloomy instrumentation. 'Ascending' is like a hazy Four Tet track with a very distinct glitch rhythm. It’s hard to call this a beat, but the volume knob has been clearly pulled to follow the 4/4 beat in terms of glitch music. Think of Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works 85 -92, with stripped back reverb.

This music sounds like nothing else out there, it really does. It can fit into the same classification as modern ambient artists and the influx of 'microhouse' musicians such as Nicolas Jaar's latest album and The Field's From Here We Go Sublime. The whole album transcends into one genre shift and instrumental rollercoaster of synth noise and gorgeous ambience. 'Holy Water' takes the 8-bit music to a calmer level with the instrumentation sounding like a waterfall as the whooshing synth drone in the background keeps the track up in the air. 'Marble Plexus' has a very dissonant texture. The distortion in the foreground is met with dreamy synth hooks in the background, this is the recurring theme on this album, with Actress taking full effect of his ability to create dynamic structures within a two/three minute timeframe.

'Uriel’s Black Harp' continues the background ambience and the foreground synthesizer instrumentation which is basically horrifying soundscapes with an oriental feel. 'Jardin' takes it a step further with the slow build up and repetitive bass riff. It’s a six minute track of the same riff mixed with a stark light distortion that reminds me of a fly, and the beautiful keyboard melodies. The track ends with a background burst of sporadic noise which is extremely minimal; this leads into the exciting 'Serpent'. The dark 'chasing' imagery is portrayed on this track, with a Burial-esque string synthesizer melody with the obscure beat and odd distorted fly sounds again. This is one of the most experimental tracks on the album; it’s also the one with a solid beat.

Noises cannot describe the powerful 'Shadow From Tartarus'. After a false start, the distortion and melody take shape in the sense of a Simian Mobile Disco electro-house tune. The track does shape up with a reverberated keyboard section which sounds gloomy and futuristic. It’s a huge difference to the older Actress material, and a change many fans will be welcoming. More futuristic sounds close this track off with a vast amount of delay and reverb. 'Tree of Knowledge' adds greatly to the atmosphere with its heavy bass drones. 'Raven' is one of the strongest tracks on the album with its standard beat mixed with the ever exciting ambience and dark, creepy loud synthesized bass riff. 'Glint' only takes the listener through a voyage of pure space imagery and modulated reverb leading into the killer Burial-esque 'Caves of Paradise'. The vocal simulation and the hazy soundscapes create this vivid atmosphere which has been straightened out by the reverberated and very loud bass riff once again. The instrumentation here is spectacular as the 'wooden' beat rings hard on the right side.

'The Lord’s Graffiti' is like a modern rave instrumental without sentimental value. The bass sounds great, as does the percussion, but the real standout is the eerie synthesizer drone that takes place and increases vigorously as the track grows. 'N.E.W.' introduces an ever darker sound, with a Steve Reich foot in the door here. The amount of reverb used on the synthesizers here is insane, with a very samey bass riff which Actress has used in a similar fashion. The distorted instrumentation fades and allows the listener so much space to get lost within. This track, and many others on this album are very spacious.

'IWAAD' has the beat which bakes your body move. The dance track has a killer syth riff and an exciting array of percussion which takes place mostly on the left speaker at different periods of the track, off beat. The track builds with some ambience and distorted soundscapes come into the foreground which sound very trance like. This track is one of the happiest and most fun on the album. It’s a perfect end to the album in my opinion. The album is extremely spacious and tracks have been placed perfectly, with the harder, louder dance tracks featuring every 3/4 tracks and ambient based tracks being used as transportation between the more abrasive tracks. It’s a magnificent piece of music that has been laid out like nothing before it. The dark instrumentation is memorable and the offbeat rhythms make a mark that cannot be undone. The powerful tracks work with the slower ambient pieces and Actress never fails to leave the listener bored on this album. It's an album of contrasting genres and cannot be simply classified as 'electronic music' because Actress garners a broad range of material within his instrumentals. This has top quality production and has genius ideas; Actress certainly has created an album for the modern stay at home electronic fans.
~Eddie

8.6